“Only in complexity do we find answers.”
Let me make something clear before I begin: I am not a Marvel person. Iron Man does not interest me one tiny bit. Thor looks annoyingly mythologically inaccurate. Spiderman bores me. In fact, most superhero films bore me, on the basis that they blatantly and unashamedly ignore every single rule of narrative and logic ever written.
But Guardians of the Galaxy, from the trailers, did not look like an ordinary superhero film. Featuring a talking raccoon, a green assassin and something very much resembling an Ent, as well as the requisite space-faring rogue and some wry sarcasm, it looked, well, fun. So, when the University Gang announced that they were off to the cinema last night, I thought, “why not?”
And it was fun. Watching Space-Faring Rogue with a Heart of Gold
Han Solo Peter Quill and his band of misfits romp across the galaxy in search of the ultimate weapon in order to Save the World/Make a Lot of Money was a whole lot of light-hearted amusement. There are jokes – not especially funny ones, to be sure, but they do a nice job of relieving the tension when everything gets just a bit too cheesy – there’s piratical (but likable) roguery, there’s inventive characterisation (even if the aliens are all humans painted pink or green or blue). I also enjoyed the fact that this galaxy is more Star Wars than Star Trek, more anarchic than civilized, literally full of smugglers and criminals and black market deals.
The story is a familiar one: Evil Villain tries to get his hands on Very Very Bad Weapon in order to Blow Up the Universe for reasons which are unclear. Only a Band of Powerless Misfits stand in his way. (It’s like The Lord of the Rings except with spaceships.) There are no surprises here, really (although it was nice that the threatened and obvious romance did not actually happen, not in this film anyway). And I’m reluctant to class this as sci-fi given that most of the stranger elements make absolutely no scientific sense at all. Logic is not a thing that has ever come to trouble this galaxy. The performances were standard – not awful, not terrific – as none of the actors really had anything very demanding to do. I’m also a little uncomfortable with the fact that what little motivation our villain is given is another variation on the “religious-fanatic” theme that seems to be permeating popular culture wherever I look now, as if all believers are nutjobs who want to kill everyone else.
But, oh my, it looked wonderful. We went to see the 3D version, and it’s definitely worth it. The arch-villain’s spaceship, all symmetrical, twisted obsidian; the massive skull mining colony Knowhere (Knowhere! Wish I’d come up with that name), pictured; the ships of the Nova Corps forming a shield-wall against the enormous Dark Aster. It’s simply glorious, full of lush, rich colour and vast, sweeping space-scapes, and even the interior sets are inventive and memorable.
Guardians of the Galaxy‘s strength, its appeal, is, like many summer blockbusters, in what Adam Roberts once called “visual poetry”. The story is not complex, not logical, not particularly well written. But there is something in the film, in the scenes of battle under strange stars, which stirs the soul. It’s not a film I’d watch again, certainly not on the small screen, where it just wouldn’t work. But I’d quite happily pay to see the inevitable sequel, in 3D, buying a brand-new pair of 3D glasses because the 385 pairs I already own are scattered through various locations across the country, none of which are anywhere near me. Which is, on the whole, a pretty ringing endorsement.